Shirley King | Avenida Primavera
|Pack It In - Pack It Out. Photo Shirley King
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In July Torrey Pines State Reserve adopted a new environmental management policy called Pack It In, Pack It Out (PII-PIO) – historically understood as “leave only your footprints.” Increasingly, visitors to State Parks throughout our country and municipal parks, particularly in beachside and watershed areas are asked to remove all of their trash when they depart. There are no trash receptacles.
Supervising Ranger Dylan Hardenbrook, of the California State Parks at the Reserve explains this policy “as a response to dwindling budget for staff to maintain the bins and cover the trash removal bill. In addition to the budgetary factors, PII-PIO helps support our function as a State Natural Reserve. In an effort to prevent training the native animals to view trash cans as a food source and to minimize litter, there has been no picnicking allowed in the Reserve since the 1980s. We found recently that the majority of the trash being collected in bins and picked up as litter was from picnics that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. We are being mandated to ‘do more with less’ and ‘explore alternative efficiencies’ in managing our ever shrinking budget.”
Ranger Hardenbrook notes, “we have a fairly high level of compliance with PII-PIO. There is generally some trash left in the restrooms, chiefly coffee cups, water bottles and tissues. We haven’t noticed any additional litter on the trails. We have had a handful of very vocal, very dissatisfied visitors. The litter laws have always been enforced, though it is extremely rare to issue a citation, warnings are far more common.” The trash receptacles in the restrooms have subsequently been removed. In regards to trash can removal at the State beach, Ranger Hardenbrook says there is no current plan for this although the number of cans has been reduced over several years to dumpsters at three access locations.
The parallel realities of fiscal restraint and ecological stewardship confront most government agencies overseeing our natural resources. Trying to guarantee a quality human visitor experience to a park especially when an area of nature is anchored in an urban corridor means we have to separate ourselves from our consumer habits. Our behaviors of easy trash disposal when walking down a city street do not transfer inconsequentially when in the midst of wilderness, nature diversity and limited human resources.
Del Mar’s City Council will soon hear a proposed Resolution from the Sustainability Advisory Board to reduce the number of trash cans in areas within Del Mar that attract very little litter with a gradual reduction in the more intensely used green areas. A slow withdrawal is intended to change the public’s relationship with their trash and reroute Public Works’ resources to more meaningful civic improvements and reduce the city’s vehicle emissions.
Our home, Del Mar, is a fortunate extension of the Torrey Pines State Reserve and its natural history. We are surrounded with plants, animals and physical landscapes that should compel us to manage and protect. Leaving nothing behind in our public areas may become a practice that we can share equally with our State Park.